Ideal: Petrobras exists to support the sustainable development of Brazil and every country it operates in.

While BP was trying to control the massive damage to both the environment and its credibility as a result of last year's oil spill, Petrobras was steadily growing at a pace that could make it the world's largest oil company by reserves and production by the end of the decade. Several organizations, Stengel says, have lauded the company for "walking the walk, as well as talking the talk, on environmental impact and sustainability."

That record is critical for a business where a mistake could mean chaos. Environmental and safety standards, as well as the massive amounts of cash Petrobras generates, play into a brand ideal of supporting Brazilian development -- provided the country can steer clear of the economic ailments fueled by oil wealth.

By Anne VanderMey @FortuneMagazine - Last updated December 08 2011: 5:39 AM ET
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